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By André Hereford on February 8, 2018
Setting off from a highly charged premise, replete with dramatic possibilities, Gustavo Ott’s La Foto: A Selfie Affair (★★½) travels a safe route while navigating the comic tale of a selfie gone wrong.
Fortunately, GALA Hispanic Theatre’s world premiere production, directed by Abel López, grants much of the telling to a strong cast. Luz Nicolás has her hands full as vivacious lead character Laura, a divorced mom of a teenager, Kelly (Samantha Riós), who definitely wishes Laura would dress and behave more like a mom.
But Laura, who half-jokingly describes herself as a woman who may be moving into the last stage of her life, doesn’t believe that behaving like a proper mom, or a divorcée, should mean hiding in a corner and withering into an old maid. She craves life, and a man, even while insisting to her daughter that she doesn’t need a boyfriend to define her self-worth.
Nicolás and Riós strike a recognizable tone as a loving but contentious mother-daughter pair, with Nicolás delivering a robust turn as an outsized character who doesn’t overwhelm the plot. Laura, appropriately outfitted in Moyenda Kulemeka’s va-va-voom costumes, yields effective comedy and suspense as the sort who’s almost always a bit too too much, but nevertheless stays true to herself.
Nicolás keeps Laura sympathetic, despite the mom’s series of ill-advised choices, the worst being her ongoing smartphone-assisted flirtation with an old high school sweetheart, Denis (Carlos Castillo), a married man. Denis and his wife, Thais, played with tender resolve by María Peyramaure, and their teenaged son, Fran (José González), get caught up along with Laura and Kelly in a publicly humiliating episode when a semi-nude selfie goes viral.
Although the play pinpoints myriad repercussions of how just one person’s irresponsible use of social media can wreck several lives, Ott merely skates along the surface. Kelly tells of the damage the viral selfie has wreaked in her social life at school, but the effects aren’t dramatized, merely recounted.
And, while González and Peyramaure conjure a fine portrait of a marriage, Ott relies too heavily on Denis and Thais to talk the arc of their story from A to Z, which weakens investment in the final fallout. Ultimately, there seems to be more enriching detail left out of this picture than what’s made it into the final frame.
La Foto runs to February 25 at GALA, 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets are $30 to $45. Call 202-234-7174 or visit galatheatre.org.